//\\ 15-Minute Federation //\\ presents . . . Star Trek: The Motion Picture — Chapter 2: Decker Gets Demoted (Or: Dr. McCoy Was Right About Transporters All Along)

00:15:01 – 00:30:00

As we begin our next chapter of The Motion Picture Edition of the 15-Minute Federation, we join Admiral James T. Kirk in his gray-and-white uniform. He’s looking fit and trim, with the pointy sideburns, as he steps out of an air tram into Starfleet HQ. He runs into Lt. Commander Sonak, a Vulcan officer, who is to be the Science Officer on board the Enterprise. Sonak is completing a final Science briefing before going to the ship.

Kirk is on his way to a meeting with Admiral Nogura, which he says will last no more than three minutes. He tells Lt. Commander Sonak to report to him on board the ship in one hour.

Within minutes, Kirk beams on board the orbital drydock offices. The Enterprise transporters aren’t in operation yet. Engineer Montgomery Scott greets the admiral and pilots the shuttle pod that takes the admiral to the Enterprise.

This is a slow approach to the refurbished ship. It is a dramatic reveal of the USS Enterprise, the familiar-yet-completely-new starship. Scotty tells Admiral Kirk that the ship has just finished eighteen months redesigning and refitting, and that she needs a testing, a shakedown run.

Kirk reveals to Scotty that there’s an alien object with unbelievable destructive power less than three days away from Earth, and that the Enterprise is the only starship within intercept range. The ship must launch within twelve hours.

Scotty continues to try to talk sense into Kirk. The crew hasn’t had near enough transition time with all the new equipment. The engines haven’t been tested at warp power. And the captain is untried.

Kirk smiles and says that he wouldn’t exactly consider himself “untried.”

“They gave her back to me, Scotty,” he says.

Scotty seems pleased. “She’ll launch on time, sir,” he says. “And she’ll be ready.”

The special effects here hold up well. Practical models weather better than CGI effects. The head-on view of the Enterprise is stunning. The theme music swells as Scotty pilots the shuttle pod over, showing the starship off. This sequence is about five minutes long. No joke.

In the first Mass Effect video game, there is a similar reveal of the Normandy. An homage, we believe.  While we also think this reveal of our favorite Starfleet starship is a bit long, you have to remember that, back in 1979, it had been nearly a decade since the original series went off the air.  This was a homecoming, of sorts, for Trek fans.  And this contrived reveal via shuttle pod (because the transporters aren’t working yet) is meant to both build up anticipation and sensually linger on this beautifully redesigned ship model.  

The shuttle pod slides into a round docking port. We’re not crazy about the interior design of the new-and-improved USS Enterprise. The turbolift is wrong. Also, there’s not a whole lot of color on the bridge. Black, white, gray, earth tones. Not the Star Trek we all remember, with the bright primary colors.

The wardrobe is different as well. Coveralls, tunics and slacks.

Uhura is the first to notice Kirk as he walks onto the bridge (Scotty was needed in Engineering, of course). She calls him “Captain,” and lets him know that Starfleet just signaled his transfer-of-command orders.

Sulu and Chekov are also there. Everyone begins to greet Kirk.

Kirk says he appreciates the welcome, but his response is rather brusque. Circumstances are critical, after all. He asks for Captain Decker’s location.

Sulu says Decker is in Engineering, and that he doesn’t know about the transfer-of-command yet.

Kirk orders Chekov to assemble the crew on the Rec Deck at 0400 hours. He wants them to know what they’re facing.

The old gang is beginning to be reassembled, but it doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy.

Kirk leaves the bridge via a blue-tinted corridor, then takes a turbolift to Engineering. The warp core ascends through multiple levels. The entire section is noisy, both with machinery, computers and people. Captain Willard Decker is there, standing with Scotty. We don’t know why Scotty didn’t tell Decker about Kirk coming aboard to take command. Maybe it was just loyalty to his old captain.

Kirk takes Decker aside and breaks the news to him. Decker will be taking a temporary grade reduction to Commander while Kirk assumes command. Decker, his blond hair and piercing blue eyes making him an Aryan poster boy, is understandably pissed. He’s been with the ship during the entire refitting process, only to have his captain’s chair taken from him at the 11th hour. Kirk cites his experience dealing with the unknown, and his familiarity with the Enterprise and her crew. Decker doesn’t deny Kirk’s experience, but says—and rightly so—that Kirk doesn’t know this new Enterprise even a tenth as much as he does.

Kirk tells him that’s why he’s staying aboard. He calls Decker “Will,” which of course made us think of Will Riker. Will Decker . . . Will Riker. We don’t believe this was a complete accident. There’s other evidence we’ll highlight later.

Kirk says, “I’m sorry, Will.”

To which Decker responds: “No, Admiral. I don’t think you are; not one damned bit. I remember when you recommended me for this command. You told me how envious you were, and if only you could find a way to get a starship command again. Well, sir, it looks like you found a way.”

We believe Decker took it too far with this. He’s insolent, petulant, and downright insubordinate. Even if he’s at least partially correct, Kirk probably should have busted him below Commander for this outburst.

Instead, Kirk just tells him to report to the bridge. Immediately.

We think there’s going to be some personality conflicts on this mission.  The Seeing Eye cloud is a huge external antagonist.  Decker may be a smaller internal one.

The transporter accident scene follows. We’ve had plenty of transporter accidents in our Trek experience. They usually result in hopping dimensional planes or the splitting of crewmen into their good and evil halves. You know, that sort of thing.

Not this time. The transporter melts its passengers like dime store candles on a hot dashboard. Janice Rand is back after disappearing during the first season of the original series. She’s a Chief now, and gets the honor of being at the controls of the transporter when the two passengers tragically die.

Incidentally, one of the passengers who died in the accident was none other than Lt. Commander Sonak, the Vulcan Science Officer Kirk met at Starfleet HQ at the beginning of this chapter. Now Kirk is minus one Science Office, who happened to be a Vulcan. Who could step in to fill that role?

Starfleet says what they got back of the passengers planetside didn’t live long. Fortunately. Kirk asks Starfleet to please express his condolences to their families. Then, he takes a moment to comfort Rand and tell her it wasn’t her fault. These condolences seem perfunctory, at best, as if Kirk is preoccupied.  Or is an insensitive asshat.

Janice Rand no longer wears her hair in that cosmic beehive. Alack and alas.

Kirk runs into Decker in another corridor, one that’s not blue-tinted. We remember Kirk ordering Decker to the bridge, but Kirk doesn’t call him out on this now. Instead, he adds insult to injury by telling Decker that he’ll have to double as Science Officer now, since there’s no one available who’s fully rated on the new Enterprise design.

To recap: Decker has not only been demoted, but now has to do the work of two crewmembers. Maybe Kirk is a bit of a jerk.

On the Recreation Deck, the assembled crew watches the footage of the Seeing Eye cloud attacking the Klingon battle cruiser. Kirk tells the crew that this alien cloud is now 53.4 hours from Earth and that their orders are to intercept it and take whatever action is necessary.

Next up on the Rec Deck viewer is the Epsilon IX monitoring station that we saw in our little movie prologue. They are scanning the cloud. The guy on the screen says that the cloud measures 82 AU’s in diameter.

AU stands for astronomical unit, which is about 93 million miles, roughly the mean distance from the Earth to our Sun. That means this gargantuan cloud measures around 7.6 billion miles across. That’s more than twice the distance between the Sun and the recently demoted (Decker-style) planet Pluto. In layman’s terms: it’s a big-ass cloud.

And you thought the lines at the Post Office were long.

As this chapter of the 15-Minute Federation draws to a close, the Epsilon IX monitoring station finds itself under attack. We think the Seeing Eye cloud didn’t like its waist size being broadcast.

Until next time . . . Put a Stainless Steel Honey Spoon in Your Ear and Communicate at the 15-Minute Federation . . .Live Long and Prosper.

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